Industry applauds new sustainable public housing at Ivanhoe, but is the model sustainable?
Willow Aliento | 15 August 2017
Frasers Property Australia, Citta Property Group and Mission Australia have won the tender for the $2.2 billion redevelopment of the Ivanhoe public housing estate in Macquarie Park, in north-east Sydney. The project is set to achieve high sustainability outcomes, such as carbon neutral operation, but while the news has been welcomed by many in the property industry, it has also raised questions about just how replicable this model of public housing funding is.
The master plan for the 8.2 hectare site will see 259 existing low-density public housing dwellings demolished and replaced with more than 3000 dwellings built by the Aspire consortium, including at least 950 new social housing apartments and 128 affordable rental apartments. A non-government co-educational vertical high school, two 75-place childcare centres, a 120-bed aged care facility, 141 social housing independent living units and 132 private independent living units are also in the plans.
Community facilities on the drawing board include a retail hub, community gardens, a multifunction community centre including a gymnasium and pool, a seniors “wellbeing centre”, village green, park, and walking and cycle trail with outdoor exercise stations.
The social housing dwellings will be owned by the government’s Land and Housing Corporation, and leased to Mission Australia to manage as the community housing provider.
It is not clear at this stage who will own the affordable rentals, nor what timeframes may apply to their affordable status, NSW Federation of Housing Associations chief executive Wendy Hayhurst told The Fifth Estate.
Mission Australia will have staffed offices on-site to assist in the delivery of support services and programs to strengthen the local community.
The development is projected to take 10 to 12 years to complete. Ms Hayhurst said it was likely many of the social and affordable dwellings would be completed early in the project.
Sustainability firmly on the agenda
Frasers chief executive Rod Fehring said Ivanhoe would blend best practice urban design, iconic architecture and sustainability to create a world-class residential neighbourhood.
“With a focus on design and a holistic approach to environmental and social sustainability, the redevelopment of the Ivanhoe estate will be a flagship project for NSW, demonstrating how the government and private sectors can work together to deliver necessary social and affordable housing by taking a true long-term community view,” he said.
Mission Australia chief executive Catherine Yeomans said the new development would be a positive, evidence-based model for an inclusive and integrated community that provides homes and a community for people from varied socio-economic backgrounds.
“Without a stable and safe place to call home, connecting with a community, raising a family, maintaining health and wellbeing and even just getting to work become major challenges. Ivanhoe provides essential community infrastructure as well as secure accommodation, and will be an inclusive and safe place to live,” she said.
The development is targeting a 6 Star Green Star Communities rating, with sustainability initiatives proposed including “carbon neutral” in operation.
It will incorporate a 1.5 megawatt photovoltaic system, green roofs, and capture rainwater for re-use. The masterplan includes at least 50 car sharing spaces, and at least one bicycle parking spot per dwelling.
The infrastructure plans also include high efficiency centralised hot water, low- or no-cost heating for social housing dwellings, smart metering technology and minimised use of on-site gas.
A new cycle and pedestrian bridge will connect to Macquarie Business Park.
Ms Hayhurst said the plans attempt to take into account the fact housing costs were more than the cost of the dwelling by minimising costs for heating and cooling.
She said the project was not just seen as an “opportunity to max out the housing”. Instead it was looking to build in the facilities people need, including green space.
Whether the dwellings would be suitable for families would come down to good design and access to facilities, she said.
Having play areas and access to schools, hospitals and green space could make apartment living “very attractive”, she said.
As part of the project, approximately $21 million generated through the redevelopment will be reinvested in social outcomes over 20 years.
Mission Australia will coordinate a comprehensive suite of tailored, person-centred supports and services for social housing tenants who elect to access them.
Property Council and Urban Taskforce are pleased
The property industry was quick to praise the announcement.
“This is good news for those in the community looking for quality affordable housing that is well connected to local services, infrastructure and employment opportunities,” Property Council NSW executive director Jane Fitzgerald said.
Ms Fitzgerald said it was a “great example of the private, public and not-for-profit sectors working together to deliver affordable, sustainable development”.
“More of these partnerships will continue to lead to good outcomes for NSW.”
The Urban Taskforce said the model demonstrated the way forward for the renewal of social housing estates.
Chief executive Chris Johnson said the “significant density uplift” of the project enabled the private sector to triple the number of social housing dwellings.
“It is good to see the NSW Government taking a lead in developing greater densities to help with Sydney’s housing affordability. It is only through responding to the big swing to apartment living in Sydney that sufficient uplift can occur to housing projects at a level that subsidises affordable and social housing,” Mr Johnson said.
“The Ivanhoe project has taken a long time to be realised and we urge the government to fast track the next projects that are part of the Communities Plus program including Waterloo, Arncliffe, Telopea and Riverwood.”
Leveraging land value uplift to fund housing? We need a bigger plan
The project is the first of the NSW Government’s Communities Plus public housing redevelopment program to have its tender awarded. The program aims to subsidise the creation of public housing by allowing developers to build market housing on attractive existing public housing sites in exchange for providing social housing. Another aim is to create “mixed communities” of social housing, affordable housing, and market housing residents.
Ms Hayhurst said the project was just “one part of a bigger plan that is required” to boost social and affordable housing.
“We haven’t seen that plan yet. This is one initiative among the many needed to clear the backlog [of public housing demand].”
The waiting list for public housing currently has about 60,000 people on it.
She said that not all the dwellings needed could be provided by regenerating existing estates.
There are also a number of run-down public housing estates in areas where land values are so low renewal of the estates would not be economically viable for developers, even with large increases in density.
Ms Hayhurst said there should be a national plan for social and affordable housing, and a larger fund for social housing.
Does social mix really work?
Spokesman for community group REDWatch Geoff Turnbull also questioned how the development would work for the tenants.
The delivery of support services is a big part of this. Many social housing tenants have complex needs, and there needs to be human services that wrap around them that ensure the people element works as well as the built environment.
Putting people with complex needs in a constructed community alongside private tenants and owners can “be an explosive mixture” if the right services are not in place, he said.
He also questioned whether a new private school would be of any benefit to those in social housing, and whether the aged care elements would also meet the needs of those with complex issues or low incomes.
The policy talk is about social mix, but Mr Turnbull questioned whether that was being achieved.
“Or have we just leveraged the value of the land to increase density?”
Victoria facing similar challenges
Similar issues have been raised recently in Victoria, where University of Melbourne researchers Dr Kate Shaw and Abdullahi Jama investigated outcomes of the Frasers Property redevelopment of a Carlton housing estate.
The initial plan for a “social mix” and equal outcomes in terms of design quality did not eventuate, they said.
The social housing and private housing were delivered as separate buildings, instead of integrating the two types of tenures together into each building.
Dr Shaw told The Age the Carlton model should serve as a warning to other governments.
“The Carlton model is a little like keeping the front of the house warm by chopping up the back for firewood,” Dr Shaw said.
“It is unsustainable. At some point, further investment will be required and there will be no land left to sell.”
The Victorian Greens have this month established a Parliamentary Inquiry into the Victorian government’s plans to privatise public land on inner-city housing estates under the Public Housing Renewal Program.
“While Victoria urgently needs to build more public housing that is publicly managed and owned as well as upgrading aging stock, the Greens and local communities have been critical of the government’s proposal to sell public land for private development on a number of public housing estates in inner Melbourne,” Greens MP Sue Pennicuik said.
She said the inquiry would consider if the proposed 10 per cent increase in public housing on the sites being sold was adequate, and whether the redevelopments would cater for a broad cross section of the community, including families, singles and couples.
“The Committee will also consider the longer term implications of selling large portions of existing public housing estates for private profit and development without the increase in public housing that is urgently needed,” Ms Pennicuik said.
“Where will future public housing be located?”